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Friday, January 31, 2014

1.30.14 Time Crunch leads to Pre-Sunrise Session at South Pier

I'd spent too long of the previous day bumming about not being able to surf.  My seaside stroll with Lucia and Chucho confirmed that my worst fears had been realized: It was pumping and damn near empty.  I slouched home the rest of the way, kicking detritus with every tenth step in an attempt to feel control over SOMETHING.

The truth is I made mental plans to be on it no matter what the next day.  Raquel had a call from eight to ten and I had a flexible schedule.  I had to be back home by 7:40.  Including the walk back I should have a solid hour and some flex time to catch a wave in, rather than doing the emasculating paddle to the sand.

I did some research and I knew the sun would be up at 6:44, which meant I could surf in natural light and have some idea as to what was happening if I hit the water at 6:10 or so.  As is typical for me these days, I woke up right around four but thankfully managed to get another hour of sleep. I woke up and laid in bed waiting for the sun to get somewhat close to breaching the local topography, so I wouldn't have to nightsurf.

I saw the water as I passed The Cup and there was definitely enough light with which to surf.  I went down the ramp to The Strand and I saw size there, but not enough steepness to make it worth my while.  I knew Pier would be better, it just had to be.  I was surprised the pier lights were still on as I made my 3/4 mile walk north.  There was no one out.

I licked my lips at the prospect of being the first guy out but then I saw someone come bounding the Tyson Street stairs.  NOOOOOOO.  I chased after him in a half-jog and warmed up my left shoulder in stride.

We hit the water at about the same time, but since he chose to paddle out in the channel (puss), he beat me out there.  I was in a much better position than he, and it reflected in our different experiences on basically the same peak.

True to form, it took me twenty minutes to catch my first wave.  It was a sketchy set wave.  I went right, away from the pier and amazed at my speed.  I snapped a bit off-balance, recovered, and as soon as I realized I was getting too far out on the shoulder, laid into a roundhouse cutback.  Alas, the section I'd targeted was weak with nothing of note to bounce off and my ride was over.

I caught a couple of lefts towards the pier, which is a lot of fun when there aren't fishing lines around.  On my first attempt, I kept up with my wave, then watched it steepen.  I bottom-turned and prepared to snap nice and vertically but the wave hit a deep spot and fizzled.  Dammit.

My second left was bigger, and I had the opposite experience.  I cruised up the face of what looked like a burger, but it steepened up as I slashed.  I reeled in the torque so as not to slide my fins out and risk tumbling, then being driven by the whitewash into a pier pylon, then kicked out.  The narcissist that I am, I proudly surveyed the foam trail of my spray.

I caught a right that went nowhere and I did a throwaway attempt at an off-the-lip 360.  The result is not worth describing...

Fifteen or so minutes went by of my not having caught a wave.  My watch was telling me it was time to go home and so I did.  I took a left in and did an off-the-lip but got bounced off on the way down.  I power-walked home and saved myself a browbeating by getting back just in time.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

1.27.14 Back in the Water after a Brief Respite

We left for a quick trip to Seattle not long after my last session, and got back not long before this one.  I was missing this swell, but the time away made me remember a realization of mine.

In SoCal, when the waves get above a certain size, there are only a handful of breaks that can handle them well.  This is important to note because breaks that can sort of handle them are not that fun to surf when it's bigger.  You're left scrambling over and under waves, then paddling back to try to get a wave.  You miss that and a clean-up set hits and you're toasted, at least for several minutes of paddling and duckdiving.

If you want to go to the spots with the best chance of focusing the energy into some good waves, you will have to brave the massive crowds.  Have you seen the overflow from the Swami's parking lot?  It's enough to turn the taking of your breath from seeing the waves into a sob-riddled sigh.

I gravitate away from the prime winter spots at all times because the majority of the time you will either not catch a set wave, and if you do, you'll get snaked.  It's worth neither the hassle nor the heartache.

With this in mind, I went to 20th St in Del Mar after checking a few spots.  The tide was dropping off its high from an hour and a half before and the waves were jacking up more and more as the water receded.  I saw a few closeouts which was not a surprise.  I was going to go back up to Pillbox when I saw "The Wave".

It was a perfectly peeling left which turned hollow about three seconds after initial  breaking, perfect for setting a barrel line.  It then kept barreling for another three or so seconds and spit.  About five seconds later, it started barreling again and spit AGAIN!  I couldn't remember the last time I saw a wave spit twice, and I'm not just limiting this to California.

As I watched later waves break decently, I pumped myself up to get out there.  To get your barrel of the year, you need opportunity, and it looked like the waves would give me a shot.  If I got one half as good as The Wave, I would be thrilled at the chance to make it out of a spinning cylinder.

I texted Missed-It Mike and the conversation went as follows:

E: 20th STAT!
M: Be out the door in 5!
E: OK. Hurry. I'm paddling out now.  Look for the guy crab grabbing to glory
M: Is it good?
E: Bigger sets either close out or spit twice.  I'll be just south of 20th, tho current may shift me.  Completely empty now.

I thought, "Cool!  M-IM is paddling out.  I haven't surfed with him in a while...!"

I paddled out and took a lump or two.  I then spent the next twenty minutes paddling back and forth, a pattern from my last three sessions I would desperately like to break.  I eventually caught an extremely racy left, and in my thirst, nay, lust to drop down and do something, I put too much weight on my front foot and pearled.

I spent another twenty minutes exercising and sneaking peeks at the shore so I could wave to Mike.  I never saw him.  He didn't show.  I got caught in a rip and the set waves turn three shades of ugly thanks to the choppiness afforded to them by the rip.  I paddled my ass off for a good five minutes and got out of it, then took a closeout in.

Monday, January 27, 2014

1.24.14 Reversing the Trend: NoPi to SoPi

Having wasted the previous day's swell by electing to watch my daughter while her mother was on a two-hour conference call, I was itching to go.

I checked the usual spots, but ended at Pillbox.  I saw some bigger waves, probably head-and-a-half breaking outside with no one on them.  Out thar!

After suiting up, I saw a guy on a SICK Rasta colors funboard on the sand.  It looked like I was going to have company out there...

Now much wiser, I paddled out at north peak, expecting the WNW angle of the swell to really shine.  What  I didn't expect, was just how much this rising swell was going to shift all over the place and create different take-off zones wave to wave.

It looked like I was in for another half session of no waves, but a buzzer beater came and I sliced its scalp as its kin had made me look like a fool.  I came down speedily, no doubt aided by the even steeper now face, post-hit.  I came back up and attempted a floater I didn't want to attempt to land.  I had seen how much air these inside closeouts were throwing up and wanted none of it.  Luckily my reluctance led me off the lip and onto the back of the wave.

The guy on the Rasta board had caught one smaller wave but other than that was struggling to find something that would let him in on that much foam.  I muttered something to myself about how exciting it was to have caught a wave, which according to WebMD is one of the first symptoms of insanity, and Rasta board guy asked me what I thought of the conditions.  I told him it was too shifty, but at least we had waves.

The swell kept growing, not so much in size, but in frequency and ferocity.  Rasta Board Guy and I were shuttled south towards the middle.  He told he was going in as it was "too much to handle".  I wasn't gnarled out yet, but I could see what he meant.

With very little to lose, I let the current sweep me south, towards hopefully greener (water) pastures.  This is when I really felt the shift in waves and some of the sets were legitimate eight footers.  Pillbox apparently maxes out at this size as the overwhelming majority were massive closeouts.

A peanut gallery had gathered at the park's edge and I was the only guy out.

After about ten minutes of feeling like a wayward cork at an exuberant pool party, I paddled for a wave with the slightest of corners and popped up, then swooped down hard.  I immediately cut through the frothy remnants of the previous wave's passing, tucked close to the wall and was enveloped in this big, white barrel, which darkened a second later and blew me out its ass.  I was overjoyed at getting barreled on such a shifty, good-sized day and came up jubilant.

I spent the next ten minutes getting gnarled out by the continued growth of the swell.  It was time for me to go home to my wife and daughter, but I didn't want to be too inside and get smashed.  I also didn't want to get too far outside and make myself late.  I wasn't scared of what the wavescape had wrought, but if it kept going like this, I could see myself entering the beginning stages of freaking.

I found a friendly closeout which let me in on it.  On my way up the ramp, I was complimented by an older woman for being out there when it was that heavy-looking.  Then I saw Rasta Board Guy walking down the ramp and asking me if he'd missed anything by going in.  I said, "Well, I did get a sick barrel!".  He said, "Oh, yeah, I saw you get that little barrel!"  I thought to myself, "Little!?!?"

1.22.14 First Car of the Swell Train Arrives: SoPi to NoPi

After witnessing the lame offerings at G-View (not once in its history has it been confused with G-Land), George's, Seaside, and 20th St, I settled on an old favorite: Pillbox.

My limited exposure to this spot has yielded me these nuggets:  The north peak tends to work better on a N swell, while the south peak prefers a S.  Not realizing this as my toes hit the water, I paddled out at the southern peak after having been entranced by a reeling, somewhat hollow left's siren song.

I suffered handsomely for having witnessed that once-a-day wave.  The paddle-out was nasty, but what awaited me was perhaps more cruel.  I sat there not catching a thing for over half an hour, a waste of about half a session.

Three guys who'd paddled out to the north peak were having better luck.  I lusted after their conquests and decided I no longer wanted to be a witness to their ways, but a partner in them.

I went in on the first wave that let me on.  At first it looked like a closeout, on my last check before popping up, it appeared to have mellowed, but the steepness of the wave absolutely shocked me, which left me audibly shrieking in excitement/agony at the thought of being tousled in the 2/3 water, 1/6 sand, 1/6 air concoction its younger twin had left in its wake.  I felt my nose dig, but managed to not endo.

I walked north with my leash still strapped to my ankle, knowing full well that taking the leash off my ankle may serve as tiebreaker and lead me back to The Rad. 

I paddled out north of the previously referenced three guys, hoping the current would put me right in the sweet spot.  After about ten minutes of sitting, I caught my first wave.  I arced up from the bottom and demolished the lip.  My momentum carried me out a bit onto the shoulder so I laid into a roundhouse cutty and pulled it smoothly.  I tried to pump in the froth that had broken just in front of where I'd reset my fins to try to keep going, but it was not to be as the section just in front of that cavitated as it filled with froth.

This wave by itself had made all of the paddling, waiting, and walking worth it.

I caught another one and in my ebullience managed to travel too far onto the fatter section of shoulder.  I realized this at the last second and really laid into my back foot.  I sent a lot of spray flying, killing all of the speed I would have otherwise wasted because of not being able to get back into the wave.

Having only a limited time to surf meant it was time to go in.

Monday, January 20, 2014

1.20.14 WNW Swell Fills in; I Drive South to Meet it

I hoped that yesterday's pounding of the sand in Del Mar would lead to a lot of it moving around and settling favorably, so as to provide peaky A-frames.  I shot down there, stopping to check only Pillbox out of sheer curiosity as to what it would do with this swell.  It sucked so I kept going. 

Dog Beach wasn't great, some of the waves looked fat, but there was some size.  I briefly considered pulling over and having a go, but changed my mind upon missing the turnoff.

20th Street had size and power but lacked makeable waves.  Every set wave just slammed down, if not all at once then damn close to it.

I drove back up north, wary of my wife's hard out at 9:40 for Baby Yoga class (eye roll).

I knew the farther north I went, the smaller and wimpier the waves would be so I was hoping one of the my first checks would be the call.  Seaside looked pretty good but the crowd there was massive.  Cardiff Reef was ok but the crowd was even worse (only three sweepers though). There was no need to check Pipes due to the sheer number of cars parked there.  D Street looked like a smaller version of 20th with not  a single surfer out (!).

I was going to check Beacons, but there was nowhere to park.  I made Grandview my do-or-die.  After watching everything but Gview proper (wasn't working and when waves jacked they were plundered by ravenous brobrahs) and decided to surf Avocado's.  Upon descending down the stairs with gear in tow, I briefly considered surfing the meaty but completely unpredictable and shifty rights to the north, but Avo's looked so good with that sun shining down.

I caught all three of my waves within the first ten minutes.

The first was a juicy left that felt bottom before it got to me, then seemed to fatten and flatten.  I pumped on it for a ways but there was nothing really there.  I was too high up to do anything worthwhile to the end section and caught slight air kicking out.

I paddled back out and immediately caught a right.  I was a little behind the peak and did a small hit/floater, which moved me up the wave, harnessing potential energy thanks to gravity, which then turned into kinetic energy.  I used that to do a nice hit at the top of the wave.  I then pumped a couple of times to get going some more and did another, less critical, hit.  In an attempt to see how much water I was throwing I turned my head and that was the end of me.

When I surfaced I was surprised at how close to the beach I was.

The third wave was a short right that didn't do much, and I kicked out right away hoping to snag another one to the shallow-land.

I spent the next forty minutes paddling out with the large crowd and trying to get in on some overhead beasts.  I gave up about three or four waves that I had good position on, but someone had better.  Also of note is that I surfed with a black guy for the first time in over a year, easily.

I went towards the inside at the end of the session as a few nugs were peeling away there but that lulled out and the mackers started up again outside of me.  I bailed so as to avoid yet another dressing down...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

1.19.14 Steeply Angled Swell Results in Rare Trip Down South to MD's

I've lived in Oceanside for a hair more than six months now and today was my first time putting my board in the car for a session.  Given the "Aleutiany" angle of the swell, I knew Oside would be one of the worst places to surf in the county.

I ended up at my old haunt, Del Mar, after seeing a sick-but-too-fast right barrel almost perfectly at Dog Beach.  I checked 20th, which looked uninspiring, then circled back up to 27th and parked.  The City of Del Mar is known for its gestapo-like approach to parking enforcement and they installed meters at 29th to thwart dog owners who thought they could outsmart the city by parking south of Dog Beach.  This results in forcing dog owners to park at 27th (or on the north side of the appropriately named Border Avenue, which is Solana Beach territory).

I saw some hard-to-believe-I'm-in-California reelers come through in my fifteen minutes or so of watching the waves.  I had my doubts about my chances out there.  There were a lot of closeouts and it was 45 degrees out, not accounting for the rigid offshore winds shooting through the San Dieguito River valley.  I was debating whether to retreat into the warm confines of my ride but decided to go for it out there even though I didn't bring booties or gloves. 

I had a look at two or three waves on which I could have gotten barreled but had zero hope of making it.  If I'd been surfing with someone and they'd been paddling out I might have thrown myself over the ledge for their entertainment.  If there's no real reward, I'm not going to risk taking a fin to the noggin...

My first wave was a steep right.  I made it down and felt my nose dig just a wee bit, but was really focused on getting a snap.  The head-high wave shut down almost immediately and I kicked my board up into the air.  Just before I hit the water I felt the whitewash give me a nice solid slap to the back of the head.

For the next hour, I paddled for and pulled away from some really obvious closeouts and dodged clean-up sets thrown my way by the growing swell.  I almost bailed my board on a head-high banger, but managed to make it just under the tumult. 

Later in the session, I bailed on my board twice and saved myself the brutality of being slapped around in water that felt like death for eight or so seconds at a time.  I also had to wrestle my board underwater after taking a wave on the head and ended up getting spun around and surfacing to the sweet sensation of brain freeze.

I'd had enough of the exercise in frustration and took a wave in.  It predictably closed out right away and I belly-boarded back to the heated interior of my car.

1.18.14 Lots of Waiting, Even more Wading from TINY Middles to Oside Pier

We took an extended walk today and the waves looked small, but pretty fun.  After lunch on the pier at Ruby's, a first for me, I gasped at how yummy the waves looked.  We got home and I grabbed my board.

I was at the water about forty minutes later and the waves had disappeared.  Since it was so hot and I'd made the trek, I wasn't going home with dry hair so I walked about 3/8 of the way to the pier and "paddled" out where there wasn't anyone.  The water was refreshingly cold.  It was so cold that with the first rinse of water into my 3/2 I felt numb in my midsection.  Thank goodness I didn't trunk it like I thought about doing!

I caught a right within a minute of perching and got a half-pump in before attempting a backside 360 which didn't go nearly as well as I'd envisioned it in my head.  I got to about the 165 mark before the lip took over and I spilled onto the flat water.

Fifteen minutes and zero waves later, I decided to wade to the pier in an attempt to so harness any sort of swell the pier's bathymetry could pull in.  It took me about twenty minutes to half-wade/half paddle there and for my efforts, I got to sit with two other people and watch neither of them catch waves.  Twenty minutes later, I went in on a closeout.


1.10.14 Small NotSures with Surprise Bum Knee

When my wife is on a conference call for work, Chucho, Lucia and I go for a two-mile walk, a lot of it along the beach.

On yesterday's jaunt, I noticed the waves weren't half-bad.  I made silent plans to surf today and came through.

I got out there early enough to avoid tide issues and was bummed to see there just wasn't much of anything.

I caught a right and did a pump before mistiming the lip.  It surprised me with how quickly it threw.  Given how close I was too shore, that should've been readily apparent...

I grimaced as I flopped over the wasted section.  My right knee all of a sudden was killing me; a victim of a subtle wrenching?

I caught some little piddlers and the knee pain was still there.  I could pump through them, but I was jamming my knee up and down with no payoff.  I got a long left, relatively speaking, and got some speed going but was once again surprised by the timing of the wave and ended up attacking it sideways.  I flopped onto the trough of the wave and called it a day to not further injure my knee.